John Martin

Study for ‘The Last Judgement’


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
John Martin 1789–1854
Graphite and ink on paper
Image: 150 × 302 mm
Purchased 1997


This small study is related to the lower half of John Martin's large oil in the Tate, The Last Judgement (Tate Gallery T01927), which illustrates the central event of the Book of Revelation. The study incorporates the most eye-catching detail in the picture, and for nineteenth century viewers the most chilling one, in which a railway train is shown plunging into the bottomless pit. A small flap of paper pasted along the bottom right edge onto the main sheet can be lifted to reveal an alternative grouping of figures for the bottom right hand corner of the oil. A small oil sketch relating to The Last Judgement is in the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut.

The main paper support of the sketch was recycled by Martin from one of his many unrealised engineering schemes for improved water and sewage plants for London. The verso shows part of a plan and specifications for a 300 x 150 foot receptacle or pit, lined with glazed bricks, for dealing with sewage overflow.

Further reading:
William Feaver, The Art of John Martin, Oxford 1975, pp.188-204

Terry Riggs
November 1997

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Technique and condition

A study for the oil painting The Last Judgement (Tate Gallery T01927) executed in pencil with some pen and ink over drawing on off-white wove paper. Done as a preparatory sketch for the lower half of the larger oil painting, a small flap of paper adhered to the lower right hand corner with an alteration to the main composition reflects Martin's working method. It is also of interest because the sheet had been cut down from a previously used piece. The verso shows part of the plans of one of Martin's engineering schemes for a water treatment works.

Generally in good condition with some discolouration and creasing of the support. There are small areas of skinning where the flap has been lifted and a general covering of dirt over the surface. On acquisition the work was lightly cleaned, pressed, inlaid and mounted.

Shulla Jaques
November 1997

You might like

In the shop